TODAY   |  April 27, 2013

White House reacts to Syria’s chemical weapons claim

The Obama administration is weighing its options regarding Syria, as speculation mounts it’s likely chemical weapons have been used in that country. NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel said it is unlikely the U.S. will send military forces, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions. TODAY’s Lester Holt interviews Richard Engel.

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>>> tough choices this morning over syria with u.s. intelligence claiming it's likely the government there used chemical weapons against its own people. the president spoke about the crisis there on friday.

>> used potential weapons of mass destruction on populations crosses another line with respect to international norms and international law . and that is going to be a game changer.

>> our chief foreign correspondent richard engel has been monitoring these developments and is in our washington bureau. richard, good morning. good to see you.

>> good to see you.

>> you go back to august when the thought that syria could use chemical weapons was raised. the president said that would be a red line , meaning that would provoke some action by the u.s. now he uses that term game changer. avoiding the phrase red line . why?

>> i don't know if i would read too much into that. he has used the phrase game changer in the past. white house officials are still talking about all options on the table. this incident that is being investigated now is still very confusing. we know or we think we know based on the intelligence that some residue of chemical weapons was found, that chemical weapons were used in a very small capacity. but what doesn't make sense is why they were used. why do you use chemical weapons which have such a -- could have such potential repercussions in a tiny amount like that? who used them? where? most likely the government, but why do it at all? so there's a lot of unanswered questions and still i don't think we're in a case of making a case for interim military --

>> the question is what appetite if any is there in this country to go to war again but could we see perhaps a libya like model where nato takes the lead with u.s. support?

>> i think that's the model the syrian opposition certainly wants. the syrians, to be clear, don't want u.s. troops on the ground. and there are some factions in the syrian opposition who would actively oppose that. if you sent u.s. troops and marines there and humvees there is a possibility the syrian rebels themselves could attack them. so that's not an option that i don't think anyone is entertaining. instead what people are talking about, which the syrians would certainly welcome, is a potential buffer zone , a no fly zone in the north and in the south and there's a lot could be made for that argument. if you allow refugees who are in turkey to go home, you allow the syrian opposition, which is now in exile, to operate from its own country. you establish safe havens . there's a strong argument that could be made for that and potentially this still confusing use of chemical weapons is leading us in that direction.

>> all right. richard engel , good to talk to you. thanks, richard.